Elon Musk Says It's Hypocritical to Free Brittney Griner But Not US Pot Prisoners
The Biden administration is working hard to free a celebrity athlete busted on weed charges while ignoring thousands of Americans doing time for the same crime.
Published on August 1, 2022

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Elon Musk just called out the hypocrisy of President Biden's proposed plan to exchange WNBA champ Brittney Griner and a former US Marine for a notorious Russian arms dealer. 

“Maybe free some people in jail for weed here too?” Musk tweeted this weekend. To illustrate his point, the Tesla tycoon added a popular meme captioned: “People in the US in jail for weed while the government trades a Russian war criminal to free a woman's [sic] basketball player in jail for weed.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA All-Star player, was arrested in February for traveling through Russia with hash oil vape carts in her luggage. At her recent trial, the basketball star claimed that she didn’t know how the carts got into her bag and presented proof that she was a registered medical marijuana patient in the US. This evidence is not likely to sway the court, though, given that Russia prohibits cannabis entirely, whether medicinal or not.

Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration was working to negotiate a prisoner swap that could free both Griner and Paul Whelan, a former US Marine accused of espionage. In exchange, the US would free “merchant of death” Viktor Bout, an arms dealer who has sold weapons to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The proposed swap ignores the plight of Marc Fogel, an American teacher who is also serving time in a Russian prison for bringing medical pot into the country.

But as Musk points out, Fogel and Griner are not the only Americans facing prison time for inconsequential cannabis charges. According to the Last Prisoner Project, about 40,000 people are currently locked in US prisons for non-violent weed charges. Athletes, celebrities, and politicians have all begged Biden to make good on his campaign promise to free pot prisoners, just like former presidents have. The current administration has repeatedly said that they are “working on” a plan to free people serving time for minor drug crimes, but less than 100 have received clemency so far. 

This isn't Musk's first brush with controversial tweets about weed. Back in 2018, after he famously took a puff of a joint on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the billionaire made a lighthearted tweet about listing Tesla stock for $420 a share. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued him over the joke and eventually forced him to step down as chairman of the company as part of the settlement. 

Since then, Musk's weed tweets have taken a more serious turn. In 2020, he tweeted about how selling cannabis “literally went from major felony to essential business (open during the pandemic) in much of America & yet many are still in prison. Doesn’t make sense, isn’t right.” And even more recently, he has also spoken out about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics and MDMA.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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